When you’re the two-time defending Super 25 champion, you’re bound to catch fire on social media.
For Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), which heads into the regional semifinals riding a 51-game winning streak, it’s taken plenty of tolerance to weather weekly tweet-storms, attacking the Gaels. After all, we’re still talking about teenagers whose impulsive behavior is to stand up for themselves within 140 characters.
“They created all that and that’s their own problem,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez told USA TODAY High School Sports.
Long before the season started, players from both Gorman and Cedar Hill (Texas) got into a highly publicized war of words on Twitter, hyping the much-anticipated season opener that was on national television.
Ohio State commit Tate Martell admitted there was a time he began getting caught up with criticism from Twitter followers, media, future opponents, rivals – anyone who would come at him. He knew it came with the territory of being one of the most-sought-after quarterbacks in the nation, and playing for the nation’s top football program, but there is only so much one person can take.
“It seems likes everybody comes after us, it seems like year after year everybody’s gotta reason though,” said Martell, one of four 2017 Army Army All-Americans on the roster. “It doesn’t really bother me too much anymore. You think about it, but I don’t let it get to me.
“I’d say junior year I got caught up in a lot of stuff, but I took a step back from all that stuff, especially from the reporters and media. I’ll talk to people face to face, but (not) doing the phone calls and answering questions all the time, it’s one thing that helped me grow up.”
Martell spoke candidly, and didn’t hide the fact that when he did get into verbal wars it was because he felt as the leader of the Gaels, he needed to step to the “bullies,” and stand up for himself and his teammates.
“The reason we talk the way we talk is we have faith in each other like nobody else,” Martell said. “I go to hell and back with my team. I’m telling you right now, that’s just how we are. I know what we’re capable of doing, but I just know that if we play our game, nobody can beat us.”
And nobody has.
The top-ranked Gaels haven’t lost since Oct. 4, 2013, to Miami’s Booker T. Washington, and haven’t lost to a team from Nevada since 2008. In fact, the only thing that may have gotten the best of Gorman, at times before the start of the 2016 campaign, is Twitter.
Senior safety Bubba Bolden said it took one bad game during his sophomore season to put aside the hate and criticism he received, something that helped toughen him up immediately.
“Coming from a public school, to not losing and blowing other teams out, some hate started coming around,” Bolden said. “My sophomore year, coming in I wasn’t the best safety. There was a couple of times I got beat, and I was getting hate, but it didn’t stop me. I play on the No. 1 team in the nation, we got the best coaching staff, the best facility, and all this stuff that is made available to me that I’m using to my advantage and make myself better.
“All that hate that they say, it makes our team better, makes me better and I just come out every day and just pray to win.”
Eventually, Sanchez said, he felt the need to step in and address social media issues before the Cedar Hill game.
“At a certain point, I told them we were done with social media; I told them I had their back, but I also told them they needed to back it up,” Sanchez said. “As soon as you post, you invite anybody to respond positively or negatively. You’ve invited that into your life because you told the entire world how you’re feeling. A lot of those things were self-created. You have now invited naysayers into your life.
“I don’t care much for social media. I talked to our kids about that. But parents need to be involved with that. They need to teach them and talk to them about that. We can monitor only so much, but we need the parents’ help.”
Sanchez said his job, aside from coaching football, is to teach young men about overcoming life’s obstacles and teaching his players how to become responsible young men. He said he doesn’t have time for any rhetoric surrounding social media, and certainly isn’t there to baby anybody who gets their feelings hurt when they’ve involved themselves in the drama.
“We have a process in place, and we have to be true to our convictions,” Sanchez said. “We’re sticking to a plan and process, and if we do that we’ll be successful. All I’ve done is what I’ve been taught. Every kid gets coached the same way. If there are going to be mental breakdowns, this program isn’t for you.
“Parents pay good money for their kids to come here, it’s a privilege to be here. … We have the best facilities, best campus and best staff. And we feel that we know what’s best for them. What we’re trying to do is teach life lessons, have discipline in their lives, how to overcome adversity – there’s no time for coddling. Life will knock you on your butt at times, you just keep pushing.”